NBA Free Agency: Kyle Kuzma Gets Extension From Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma is not going anywhere anytime soon after getting a contract extension from the Los Angeles Lakers. Kuzma would have become a restricted free agent after the 2020-21 NBA season, but the Lakers made sure that other teams will not get a crack at him next year.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Kuzma and the Lakers agreed to a three-year worth $40 million with a player option after the 2022-23 NBA season. Wojnarowski said that Kuzma's extension is a rare deal because it is a non-max contract with a player option, which could work wonders for the 25-year-old forward because he could hit free agency again at his prime and could get a huge deal depending on how he will perform in the coming years.
Kuzma believes that the deal, despite not being a max rookie contract extension, is great for him, knowing that he still has a lot of room for growth. The contract also gave him the opportunity to align his Lakers future with superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who also signed contract extensions during the offseason. Kuzma said that it is a big win for him because he can continue competing for a title and get a chance for a big deal in two years.
"I’ve got a great situation, having a 2+1 player option and just being able to align myself with those guys and also just continue to learn and develop as a player and a human," Kuzma said of his contract extension via Silver Screen and Roll. "To have an opportunity to be in a championship window, to continue to win championship, until my deal is up, when I’m into my prime. It’s a win-win."
James took to Twitter to congratulate Kuzma on his new deal. The reigning NBA Finals Most Valuable Player previously said that he expects Kuzma to have a breakout year this season after the Lakers made roster changes during the offseason for their title defense.
On the other hand, Davis also believes that that the best is yet to come for Kuzma. Davis, who signed a five-year deal worth $190 million in free agency during the offseason, believes that the extension will help Kuzma because he would be focused on his game, and not about pending free agency.
"It's good for him," Davis said of Kuzma's extension. "You don't have that contract anxiety for the whole year. Now that it's out of the way, youcan go out there and play, which he was doing anyway. He was having a great preseason. He's been playing great for us in the bubble and all of last year. He's locked in. He made a great jump on both ends of the floor."
Signing Kyle Kuzma to Extension Is a No-Brainer, Says Analyst
There were questions about Kyle Kuzma's future in Los Angeles, because most analysts are expecting the Lakers to pursue a third star in next year's free agency. However, the extension for Kuzma became a matter of when and not if when the Lakers made big moves in the offseason.
The Lakers lost their ability to sign a third star when they gave LeBron James a two-year extension worth $85 million and Anthony Davis a five-year deal worth $190 million. According to Bill Oram of The Athletic, the Lakers had no reason to delay the extension because they would face a tough situation if they allow Kuzma to become a restricted free agent. Oram said that it took time likely because the Lakers had to convince Kuzma to agree to an extension.
"Any possible reason the Lakers might have had to not pursue signing Kyle Kuzma to a contract extension went out the window once LeBron James and Anthony Davis both re-upped with long-term deals of their own," Oram said. "With those two extensions, the Lakers lost much of their future spending power. Their ability to generate salary-cap room for a third superstar was essentially toast. They would be hard-pressed to sign a replacement of similar value if a rival team threw a monster contract Kuzma’s way in restricted free agency next summer."
Oram said that the three-year, $40 million was a great compromise for both parties. For the Lakers, they will not have to worry about having the dilemma of matching a potential offer sheet for Kuzma when he becomes a free agent next year. It is worth nothing that several teams will have huge cap space for the 2021 free-agency period because of the interesting class of players on the market.
On the other hand, Kuzma could have gotten a chance to get a bigger deal in free agency, but declining an extension means that he is betting on himself to have a big year this season. It remains to be seen what his role will be in the new-look Lakers roster. Oram said that the arrival of Montrezl Harrell and Dennis Schroder will likely have a direct effect on Kuzma's role and production this season.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel recently admitted that the coaching staff is still unsure about Kuzma's role -- whether or not he will start for the Lakers this season. However, Vogel pointed out that the young forward will have a big role for the team moving forward, and the champion coach is not worried about Kuzma's mentality at all, saying that the fourth-year forward has sacrificed a lot and is willing to continue doing so for the Lakers.
"He’s going to have a big role on our team," Vogel said via The Athletic. "There’s no question about it. We do have one of the deeper teams in recent memory, really. Not just a deeper team, the deepest team in the N this year. We’re going to try to use the early part of our season to get a lot of guys acclimated and comfortable with each other. But we have a lot of guys that impact the game, that impact winning, and Kuz is definitely one of them."
Kuzma averaged 12.8 points and 4.5 rebounds for the Lakers last season, which was a dip from his averages of 18.7 points and 5.5 rebounds during the 2018-19 NBA season. His production also went down in the postseason, where he posted just 10.0 points and 3.1 rebounds in 21 games. However, the former Utah standout showed promising signs in their preseason games this year, where he averaged 17.5 points on 41.7 percent shooting from the field.
Kawhi Leonard Talks About Impending Free Agency
The 2021 free-agency is highly anticipated as several teams have already cleared cap space to chase big names next year. Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo was supposed to be the biggest fish on the market next year, but the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player will not hit free agency anymore. Antetokounmpo signed a five-year, super maximum extension worth $228 million with the Bucks.
LeBron James was also projected to be a part of the 2021 free-agency class, but the Los Angeles Lakers superstar has already signed an extension. Los Angeles Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard is now arguably the best possible free agent after the 2020-21 NBA season.
Leonard could become a free agent if he decides to opt out of the final year of his contract that would pay him $36 million in the 2021-22 NBA season. Opting out would give Leonard a chance to get a bigger and longer deal from the Clippers or another interested team. Leonard said that he is focused on leading the Clippers this season but admitted that he is open to opting in depending on his health in the coming months.
"Just for my situation right now, I'm just focused on this season," Leonard said via ESPN. "Not saying I'm going anywhere else or staying here, but I'm just focused on the season. Obviously, if I'm healthy, the best decision is to decline the player option. But that doesn't mean I'm leaving or staying. I'm focused on the season, like I said. We'll talk about that when the time is right."
Leonard signed a three-year deal with a player option in the final season with the Clippers last year, shortly after helping the Toronto Raptors win their first championship in franchise history. The superstar forward also convinced Paul George to request a trade to the Clippers last year, forming arguably the best two-way player duo in the league.
George had a rough first season in Los Angeles, especially in the playoffs. The 30-year-old forward was also supposed to be a part of the 2021 free-agency class, but George decided to sign a five-year extension worth $226 million this offseason. Leonard confirmed that he talked to George before his superstar teammate agreed to the contract extension.
"I spoke to Paul, he felt comfortable here," Leonard said. "He loves the city, he's obviously from here, so I think from his standpoint, he did a great job of coming to me and telling me how he feels before signing the contract."
Leonard, a Los Angeles native, averaged a career-best 27.1 points to go along with 7.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game in his first season with the Clippers. George, on the other hand, posted 21.5 points on top of 5.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game for Los Angeles.